Salespeople are a rare breed. Great ones are hard to come by and even harder to spot. Regardless of whether you have the chops, sales just may not be the best use of your time. That’s okay, but it also means that you have to hire one. For most, this can seem like a daunting task, and it certainly can be. But not if you know what to look for.
Over the years, I’ve had to hire several salespeople, and this post is meant to act as a guide (of sorts) to help you find and hire the right candidate. When hiring a salesperson, here’s some key traits to look for.
1) A Large Network
By nature, great salespeople are connectors. They take pride in their network and have worked hard over the years to build amazing relationships. You can look at superficial things like their Linkedin connection count, number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers, but that’s not the only place to look. If you talk with people in the community or in the space, you’ll run into a common theme — they’re known in your circles. Great salespeople are everywhere, amazingly so.
2) Attention to Detail
There’s a common stereotype with most salespeople, that they are sloppy. Some are, the great ones are not. The sales process is littered with operational stumbling blocks that can trip most people up. Managing email, scheduling meetings, organizing follow-up tasks, delegating internally — these are all requirements. If a sales candidate doesn’t have a good grasp on the details, they’ll struggle. Look for an innate ability to excel at the little things. Resumes and social profiles are often a great place to look for this attention to detail.
3) The Hunter Mentality
Selling is a tough racquet. You have to be self-motivated and handle rejection with grace. At times, it’s tough to keep going. For a salesperson to excel, they have to have the “hunter” mentality deep within them, a passion to keep going when the going gets tough. A good way to evaluate this in someone that you’re interviewing is to look at their track record, of course. Barring that, look at whether they follow-up with you after a meeting or whether or not they reached out to you initially about the position. Little signs of taking the initiative are typically indicative of the greater picture. For these folks, money isn’t the motivator, it’s the thrill of the chase.
4) An Entrepreneurial Mindset
You’d never think it, but salespeople are very creative people. Or, at least, they should be. The sales process can throw some pretty nasty curveballs, and it’s up the the salesperson to figure out how to handle them. As the person hiring, you need to find a salesperson that can handle those curveballs. The ideal situation for you is to set some goals, and let your salesperson figure out how to get there. That’s very much an entrepreneurial-minded task. When hiring, look for a history of companies of their own or signs of an entrepreneurial spirit at previous workplaces. The ability to think on your feet is a must.
These are the traits that I’ve found to be helpful in hiring salespeople, but it’s certainly not exhaustive. For other ideas on how to hire salespeople, check out this Inc. post on what to avoid and this post from Tom Tunguz. Questions? Feel free to drop them below.